Around 100 people gathered at the Langley Middle School field on Friday morning to commemorate 11 Langley High School graduates who were killed in World War II and the Korean War.
It was the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
The event opened with Langley Mayor Fred McCarthy acknowledging those in attendance, which included veterans, members of the American Legion, the American Legion Riders, students and staff from Langley Middle School and Island Christian Academy, City of Langley workers, and many others. Members of the Maj. Megan McClung Marine Corps League Detachment 1210 raised the American flag and a prayer was given by Pastor Darrel Wenzek.
Herb Weissblum, a veteran, recited a D-Day poem he wrote, which described the events that occurred during the Allied invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944. History’s largest amphibious assault took place along 50 miles of the Normandy coast. Many died in the battle for freedom, he said.
“We gather here today to salute our brave neighbors whose lives were lost,” Weissblum recited. “Fighting for our liberty on Normandy’s beaches at great human cost.”
A refurbished plaque containing the names of 11 veterans from Whidbey Island was revealed during the ceremony. South Whidbey teacher Rachel Kizer spoke about the memorial. She was instrumental in the organization of community members and South Whidbey students in the project. The memorial had resided at the Langley Middle School for years, Kizer said. In 1955, during a Langley High School football game, the South Whidbey Veterans of Foreign Wars dedicated the Memorial Athletic Field to the high school as well as a flagpole and plaque with the names of those graduates who died in a foreign war. The high school later moved to a different location and the football team began to play on a new field. As time passed, the memory faded.
In November 2006, a Navy veteran was walking his dog around Langley Middle School and encountered the flag pole. He wrote a letter to the South Whidbey Record asking who the names on the plaque belonged to and why the memorial had fallen into such disrepair. Kizer saw his letter in the paper, which began a two-year project to restore the memorial and honor those veterans.
Students from Langley Middle School interviewed family and friends of the fallen veterans. Lloyd Carter, a veteran in WWII and a school district employee, was instrumental in the research process because he knew many facts about the young men.
Roy Simmons and Bob Gabelein, along with help from the community and school, moved, prepared and constructed the new memorial site. The new location can be seen from both school and Camano Avenue.
“Those young men would not be forgotten,” Kizer said.
On Nov. 12, 2008, family and friends were invited as honored guests to rededicate the plaque and flagpole to those Langley grads who gave their lives in WWII and the Korean War. Those veterans include: Paul Applegate, Delbert Drake, Lloyd Francis, Robert Orr, Stanley Simmons, Harold Bloomquist, Robert Fiske, Ernest Moser, Thomas Poyneer, Rafael Mylly, and Charles Greenshield.
Each name was read from the plaque and was met by a toll of the bell. Wenzek played “Taps,” a song generally performed at the end of a military funeral, while the flag was lowered to half-mast in remembrance of all those lost on D-Day and domestic wars.
The ceremony concluded when three vintage P-51 fighter planes flew overhead. The mission of the planes on D-Day was to target German soldiers or artillery by flying low-level passes.